By Ivan G. Goldman
Juan Manuel Marquez, by hiring PEDs-tainted Angel Heredia as a strength and conditioning trainer for his fourth fight against Manny Pacquiao, jumped into a thicket of thorns. He won’t come out unscratched.
Why? What if Marquez, at age 39, is actually quicker and stronger than ever, just as he’s been claiming? Let’s take it a step farther and say, just for the sake of argument, that he stops his Filipino nemesis on Saturday. When an athlete of such advanced years performs at a higher level than he did in his mid-twenties, we have a name for that — miracle. But as a character in the lovely film Moonstruck declares, there ain’t no more miracles.
Although Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach has definitely gotten under Marquez’s skin with his comments about his physique, Marquez may well be completely clean. He’s offered to take tests any time. Still, if Marquez prevails over Pacquiao, he won’t win as much as he’d hoped. And if loses — well, that’s not likely to help his legacy either.
Pacquiao, however, does have something to gain, particularly if he scores a kayo. Why? Because he would at last close the books on a fighter who’s been poking holes in his career for years, claiming that he beat Pacquiao in all three fights and that the judges screwed up. And perhaps more important, Pacquiao would then have kayoed yet another fighter who went the distance with Floyd Mayweather. They say styles make fights, but they say lots of things that aren’t always true. The truth is, how two fighters fare against common opponents is at least one measure of how they would do against each another. The measurements can’t be precise. Pacquiao and Mayweather faced their common opponents at different ages, and Mayweather, a more defensive fighter, is more likely to be content with a decision victory than is Pacquiao.
Yet looking at common opponents, any neutral observer would find that Pacquiao, for the most part, dispatched them quicker and with more finality than Mayweather. He stopped Miguel Cotto in the twelfth, Ricky Hatton in the second, and Oscar De La Hoya at the end of eight. Mayweather stopped Hatton in the tenth, and Cotto and Oscar went the distance. Floyd’s victory over Oscar was by split decision, and it was a close contest. Pacquiao and Mayweather both dominated Shane Mosley by decision. Marquez is the one opponent that flummoxed Pacquiao but was easily defeated by Mayweather. While Floyd knocked him down and thoroughly dominated him, Manny has so far come away with a draw, a split decision, and a majority decision.
The draw was the result of a judge’s mistake. He gave Pacquiao credit for only two of the three knockdowns he scored in round one. Had Burt Clements scored it properly, his score would have been 113-112 Pacquiao instead of a 113-113 draw, and Pacquiao would have won by split decision. It was a heck of a fight no matter how you scored it. They all were. And yes, I believe Marquez deserved a victory in the last one. Trouble is, he apparently had Heredia on his team.
It’s been widely reported that Heredia, after admitting under oath that he supplied banned steroids to clients, changed his name to Hernandez. “Hernandez” was ratted out by the maharajah of chemicals, Victor Conte, who did time after being linked to steroid trafficking in boxing, baseball, track, and who knows what other sports? Conte, still hiring out to athletes, now claims to be on the side of the angels.
Marquez’s fans dislike discussing his choice of strength trainers, but facts are facts. I’m a fan of Marquez too. I have been since he was just another tough kid out of Mexico fighting around Los Angeles back in the nineties. I was pleased to see him advance to elite fighter status and move his family into a Mexico City mansion. It would be nice if chemical questions didn’t have to be applied to sports stories, but we must deal with the world as it is, and in sports, it’s changing fast — not always for the better.
Ivan G. Goldman’s critically acclaimed novel The Barfighter is set in the world of boxing. Information HERE